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Interview with the Designers of Kohan: Ahriman's Gift
by Andy Grieser
December 17, 2001


I’m a huge superhero fan — have been since I was a kid. Even through college, I drew a comic strip starring characters like Aardvark Boy. And you know what? I’m not alone. So why hasn’t there been a superhero game since Superhero League of Hoboken in the ‘80s?

The call went out, and the folks at Cryptic Studios have responded. They’re putting together City of Heroes (, a massively multiplayer RPG set in a comic-book world. We wanted to know more, so we lit up the ESC-signal at the top of ESCmag Tower in downtown Dallas, and Cryptic Studios game designer Jack Emmert (a.k.a. The Statesman) leaped into action. Up, up and away!


What's the storyline?

The overall background to the game is that Paragon City is trying to get back onto its feet after the war against the alien Rikti. Supervillain organizations, seeing Paragon City’s current weakness, have become more active as of late. Paragon City’s leading hero groups have sent a call out for help to protect their metropolis. That’s just the starting point — where it goes from there is up to the players.

Will the game follow comic-book "chapters" or just feature continuous combat?

Story arcs will be a huge part of the game. Solo heroes or groups can go on long missions whose outcome might change the way a particular villainous organization behaves. In fact, the actions of the entire Continuity (or server) will determine how a villain and his group acts. In other words, the supervillains will react to the heroes; each Continuity will soon have its own unique background.

Which comics inspired you?

That’s hard to pinpoint, if only because so many of us have read a lot of comics. In my case, I started reading and collecting comic books over 20 years ago. And I’ve never stopped. I even worked in a comic book store for years. My interests have always lay in the mainstream — Fantastic Four, Avengers, JLA, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Batman, etc. — though I’m quite intrigued by the new types of books being written today, such as Planetary and Authority. The one thing I can most definitely say is that City of Heroes is trying to capture the modern-day comic book hero — not a kitschy Silver Age or a classic Golden Age hero — but something you might see in today’s comics.

Walk us through creating a superhero. Say, Aardvark Boy.

The first thing a hero does is choose an Origin. These aren’t character classes, as are used in other MMORPG’s, but the different Origins give heroes a unique feel. Every Origin has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some might have more powers, others might have more skills. Secondly, the player chooses an avatar — Superheroic Male, Superheroic Female or Monstrous Male. Next, the player allocates points into his basic six attributes. These are the hero’s characteristics before any super-powered enhancements. After the attribute page, a player selects the powers for his hero, and then skills. Once the fundamentals of the character are set, the player gets to dive into the really exciting part — creating a costume. Players will be able to choose from thousands of different geometry, texture and color combinations.

How customizable are powers?

Each power can be augmented in a variety of ways. Energy Blast, for instance, has a Damage Level, a Range, an armor-piercing value and a knockback rating. When a player first selects his powers, or when he spends experience points, he can choose to increase any of these different categories. One player might end up focusing on range, another on damage. Two heroes might both have the same power, but each will have a unique variation of it.

Will players be allowed to play villains?

Not in the first release. We’re planning on a villain expansion in the future.

How will City recreate the soap-opera atmosphere present in most comic books?

The storylines and story arcs in each Continuity will go a long way towards recreating that atmosphere. Heroes can also earn the enmity of particular villains and groups. If a hero or group foils the plots of a particular villain group too often, those villains might build a grudge, and begin hunting down those heroes regularly.

What will players be able to do between battles?

Heroes can socialize with one another in different spots in the city. Players can also augment and decorate their base or apartment. A player could also take in the latest bout in the arena, where players can face off against other players.

How will battles between superpowers affect the landscape of the city?

Combat, adventures and encounters normally occur during missions in villain lairs, or in Hazard Zones, where heroes can face off against random evildoers. Sometimes, these battles can even affect the landscape.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge preview shots.


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